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Major Win for Louisiana Police Officer Denied Job Over HIV Status

Police Car
Photo by Matt Popovich on Unsplash

After eight years, William “Liam” Pierce gets justice.

The Iberia Parish Sheriff's Office has settled with former police officer William "Liam" Pierce, who was hired as a sherrif's deputy only to see the offer rescinded after a medical evaluation displayed his HIV-positive status.

The IIberia Parish Sheriff’s Office has agreed to pay Pierce $90,000 and consented to change their policies toward HIV-positive employees, according to Lambda Legal, which served as counsel for Pierce. All employees of the Sheriff's Office will undergo two hours of training on HIV, including actual transmission risks, stigma, and the effects of HIV discrimination for all staff members. The Sheriff's Office will also explicitly ban HIV discrimination in their hiring policies, and post a public notice about the new policy in their office.

Originally from Ohio, Pierce moved to Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina devastated the state in 2005. Pierce worked as a paramedic and police officer in the state and applied to be a sheriff's deputy at the Iberia Parish Sheriff's Office in 2012. After his in-person interview, he was told he had gotten the position, but the results of a medical evaluation — which included his HIV status — led to the job being rescinded. Pierce filed a complaint under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but It took eight long years to reach the settlement with the Iberia Parish Sheriff's Office.

“I immediately knew that the Sheriff’s decision not to hire me was based on my HIV status, and though it was a long journey, it feels good to finally be vindicated,” Pierce said in a statement. “I hope that my case helps others avoid going through my experience and demonstrates to other employers that living with HIV has nothing to do with our ability to do any job.” 

“This settlement is a lesson to all employers across the country that HIV discrimination in the workplace is completely unlawful and has no place anywhere," Scott Schoettes, Counsel and HIV Proect Director at Lambda Legal, said in a statment. “Someone’s HIV status is absolutely irrelevant to their ability to safely perform a job, from the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office to the U.S. Air Force, and using it to deny employment or promotion is discrimination pure and simple. This settlement should also serve as a wakeup call to states and cities across the country to remove once and for all outdated and stigmatizing HIV criminalization laws that perpetuate discrimination and ignore current medical science.”

Read more here about workplace rights for people living with HIV.

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